Venezuela's opposition gets talks with the government — on national TV

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Aaron Schachter: I'm Aaron Schachter, this is The World. In Venezuela, deadly anti-government protests over the past couple months have tested President Nicolas Maduro's grip on power. The protesters want Maduro to step down and Maduro's government has responded by cracking down hard on the opposition. At least 40 people have died and about 600 have been wounded in the violence since February. But yesterday, Maduro and the opposition actually sat down together for televised talks that ran late into the night. The BBC's Daniel Pardo is in Caracas. Daniel, how did the talk go? Any breakthrough?

Daniel Pardo: It was an interesting journey, if you will. It was a six-hour meeting between people who've never met and that used to insult each other almost every day. Of course, the meeting is only opening the door for dialogue. This is a deeply polarized country, these are two blocks that really represent two different ways of seeing not only the country but life. Even Maduro said before the meeting yesterday that it's a conversation between two models and I think he's right. In every single element that they spoke about yesterday, they have different views.

Schachter: As you say Daniel, these two sides haven't spoken before. In fact, they've said they never would, at least Maduro did. So not only did they get together but they spoke in a meeting that was televised for six hours. That seems kind of incredible for me. Is that actually significant?

Pardo: Actually, it's not the first time. After the coup d'etat against Chavez in 2002, there were some attempts to create dialogue but they were frustrated. As well in 2004. But this is the only time the future of the country depends on it. On the televised side, yes, that's an interesting thing because in this country, the government has gotten used to doing these cadenas nacionales, which are broadcast at the same time on every channel and every radio station that are compulsory for every channel to do it. One of the conditions that the opposition had yesterday was that this debate was televised in cadenas nacionales, which it was, and it then went until 2 in the morning. The former presidential candidate for the opposition was the last one to speak and he spoke at 1:30 in the morning, but many people were watching.

Schachter: There have been two months of violent street protests. Has anything changed over those two months and I wonder how Venezuelans are feeling these days in general?

Pardo: That's a difficult one. I think something has changed definitely because many people in the opposition think that this is the only way to get the country better. Protesting on the street, impressioning the government to change and to hear them and you get these talks. These talks are quite significant because it didn't happen in the past 10 years. That should be taken as a change. Now, the country is still in bad shape. Our economy has one of the highest inflations in the world and has shortages in basic goods, so no, major changes haven't occurred but political changes have and they need to do something to create a new atmosphere where dialogue is possible and where opposition people, even radicals, feel that there is a possibility of change.

Schachter: The BBC's Daniel Pardo speaking to us from Caracas.